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What has Yorkshire Ever Done for Cycling?

To celebrate the 2019 Tour de Yorkshire, Cycling Legends looks at some of Yorkshire’s contribution to cycling

Part two of three

Photos: Cycling Legends.co.uk and Andy Jones.
Words: Chris Sidwells

Image of Barry HobanBarry Hoban
Only Mark Cavendish has scored more than the eight Tour de France stages Barry Hoban won, and Cav is half Yorkshire through his Harrogate born mum, so half of his wins belong to the county, don’t they?

Hoban is 79 now, still a force of nature, still as sharp as a razor, and still as competitive as he was when he went head to head in Tour de France sprints with the likes of Patrick Sercu, Rik Van Linden and Jacques Esclassan. They were the fastest sprinters in road racing back then, but Hoban wasn’t a sprinter, not like Mark Cavendish is a sprinter.

Hoban was fast, he had to be to beat the people he beat, but he was also adaptable durable and aggressive. He won bunch sprints but it wasn’t his only card; “I always tried to get in a break, cut down the odds first, then I’d think about how to win,” he says.

Hoban was an intelligent as well as feisty racer, who saw opportunities when others didn’t, or couldn’t. His intelligence helped him score Britain’s first ever  Tour de France mountain stage win with a long lone breakaway over Alpine giants like the Col de la Colombière, to a mountain-top finish at Cordon-Sallanches. It was 1968 and he worked it out before he went for it, then executed his plan perfectly. Hoban had the class and strength to make it work.  

Image of Barry Hoban and Raymond Poulidor

In 1974 he was part of a large breakaway that formed towards the end of Ghent-Wevelgem. It contained the best of a golden generation of Belgian cycling. Eddy Merckx was there, Roger De Vlaeminck, Frans Verbeek, Herman Van Springel, Walter Godefroot, Freddy Maertens, Eric Leman and Walter Planckaert. Hoban galloped past the lot of them to win by lengths. It was the proudest moment of his cycling career. A Classics win for a classics racer.

You can read about his career in full depth and with honest reflection in Barry’s autobiography, Vas-y Barry, which is published by Cycling Legends:- http://www.cyclinglegends.co.uk/index.php/books/vas-y-barry-detail

Image of John RawnsleyJohn Rawnsley and the Three Peaks cyclo-cross
A cyclo-cross over the iconic Three Peaks fell walk in the Yorkshire Dales? All the way up, and down, and in between Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough? It’s getting on for 30 miles, and cyclo-crosses are around ten miles. Hey, why not? That’s what John Rawnsley thought in 1960.

A teenager from Skipton, Kevin Watson was the first to do the Three Peaks on a bike in 1959, so Rawnsley and a few mates had a go the following May. They did it, then announced there’d be a race in 1961. The Three Peaks Cyclo-cross was born, 35 riders did the first one, Rawnsley won it, and now they have to limit the field to 600, and far more who want to get in than can get in.

Rawnsley ended up organising 49 more Three Peaks and riding 45 of them. He’s also done the Three Peaks running race 30 times. In total he’s ridden, run or walked the route, in various directions upwards of 150 times. He happily admits it’s his obsession, but it’s not the limit of Rawnsley’s achievements.

Image of The John Rawnsley action from 3 peaks race

He’s done the famous Bob Graham Round crossing 42 Lake District peaks on foot, a distance of 74 miles, within 24 hours. And in 1974 he set a bonkers cycling record when he rode the Pennine Way, 268 miles up the spine of Northern England and into Scotland in two days 23 hours and 27 minutes.

Its green hills, lush valleys, wide-open vales and wuthering heights.
Britain’s biggest county has the widest range of scenery and countryside, and all of it good for cycling in. Going clockwise, South Yorkshire has the flat to gently undulating country of its former coal mining villages, and the gaunt dark uplands of the northern Peak District.

Image of  Arkengarth and Swaledale

West Yorkshire is a mix of mining country, mill towns and wild hills, but it also meets the southern edge of the Yorkshire Dales, and the Dales are one of the best places to ride, on or off-road, in the world.

The Yorkshire Dales are mostly in North Yorkshire, which has another upland area to the east, across the flat Vale of York, called the North Yorkshire Moors. It's a deeply dissected plateau that ends at the gothic coastline around Whitby and Scarborough.

Image of The Cinder Track

Finally there’s East Yorkshire and the Wolds, a patchwork of arable fields divided by green valleys lying under a vast sky. The Wolds have inspired many artists, David Hockney’s bright palate, for example, reflects the hills and woods of East Yorkshire as much as it does the swimming pools of L.A. The Wolds meet the North Sea in a line of chalk cliffs, while further south a flat coastal plain stretches to the tip of Spurn Head's curling finger of sand.

If you’ve not cycled in Yorkshire then you are missing something very special indeed.

IMage of Ed ClancyEd Clancy’s shoulders
They’re so wide, how does he fit them down the really narrow streets in the Tour Series? Joking apart those shoulders help provide the leverage that makes Clancy the best Man-One in the team pursuit. Man-One gets the team up to speed, 60 kph to be world-class now, and he or she (because Man-One is Man-One regardless of sex) must do it in one and a half laps. That requires blistering but at the same time smooth acceleration, and nobody does it better than the big guy form Barnsley.

Clancy has three Olympic gold medals in the team pursuit now, and he’s helped Team GB break the world record many times. He also has five world team pursuit titles, and one in the omnium. He's already had an great career, but Clancy and his shoulders look set to continue.

The Dave Rayner Fund
Dave Rayner was a talented pro racer from Shipley in West Yorkshire, who died after an incident at a Bradford night club in 1994. It was tragic, he was only 27 and from a lovely family, who helped set up the Dave Rayner Fund in his memory in January 1995. Its aim is to support young cyclists who want to race in Europe. David Millar was the first beneficiary, and the Fund has become massive, supporting and continuing to support hundreds of young men and women in their ambition.IMage of Dave Rayner

The list of Dave Rayner alumni is too long and too distinguished to single out individuals. The list of people who have been guest of honour at the Dave Rayner Fund dinner is impressive too. They include Sir Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, Sean Kelly, Miguel Indurain and Eddy Merckx.

The Fund is run by a group of very hard-working volunteers, who as well as collecting the hard cash the Fund needs, have given UK cycling one of its best cyclo-sportives, the Etape du Dales.

Shake Earnshaw   
The name is more Yorkshire than Geoffrey Boycott and Michael Parkinson sat on Brid beach wearing flat caps, clutching whippets and sharing a bag of Pontefract Cakes. (Brid is what Yorkshire folk call Bridlington, a famous seaside resort known as the Pearl of the North Sea. It’s not really, but I allus call it that).

Earnshaw’s real first name was Harry, he was called Shake by a relative for a reason that’s too complicated to explain, but the nickname stuck. Earnshaw was a coal miner from Royston in South Yorkshire. In 1938 he rode a very distinctive bike, made distinctive for the same reason the Baines Flying gate was (see part 1 Image of Shake Earnshawof this story http://www.cyclinglegends.co.uk/index.php/features/big-reads/33-what-has-yorkshire-ever-done-for-cycling ) to victory in the British Best All Rounder (BBAR) competition, while setting a new British record for 100 miles of 4 hours 20 minutes 48 seconds along the way.

The distinctive bike was the Carlton Flyer, which had very steep seat and head angles, and almost straight forks. Carlton Cycles, based just south of the Yorkshire border in Worksop, North Nottinghamshire, supplied Flyers to Earnshaw’s club, the Monkton Cycling Club, who won the team title for the BBAR many times in the days when the BBAR was the biggest prize in British cycling.